Focus (2015)

Focus (2015)
  • Time: 104 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Crime | Drama
  • Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
  • Cast: Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Rodrigo Santoro


In the midst of veteran con man Nicky’s latest scheme, a woman from his past – now an accomplished femme fatale – shows up and throws his plans for a loop.


  • One of the world’s most charismatic and entertaining actors, after a lengthy stint with less than desirable roles as either cameo appearances or performances less than appealing, has once again graced us with a leading role alongside one of Hollywood’s biggest up and coming actresses. The result is a crime drama/romantic comedy titled Focus, written and directed by both Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. With A-list superstar Will Smith and Wolf of Wall Street newcomer Margot Robbie, does Focus pull you in, or are there one too many distractions?

    The story finds Nicky Spurgeon (Smith) enjoying life as a conman extraordinaire, when he runs into Jess Barrett (Robbie) attempting to enter his world of swindling and thievery. After a successful ‘trial period’ Spurgeon is hesitant in making any emotional connection, in spite of overwhelming evidence to support his feelings. As the years go by a major con comes into the works surrounding a billionaire race car owner, and the question of who’s conning whom becomes increasingly difficult to answer…

    Firstly, the primary element of Focus that captures sheer brilliance all-round is the intense, sexy and completely undeniable chemistry between it’s leading actors; Robbie and Smith feel real together; the attraction is there, the trust (or lack thereof) is there and most importantly, the audience is never 100% certain of whether or not the conversations are genuine emotionally or simply bold faced lying. This makes for intense watching with a serious sexual edge to it that most ‘rom coms’ of the day just can’t seem to capture. You genuinely want them to be together but you also have no idea if they truly want it themselves, or if they are simply looking for the ultimate payday. As the finale comes around questions are answered and emotional connections are decided, but the combined brilliance of Smith and Robbie makes for an giddily enjoyable watch.

    With that in mind, the individual performances of Smith and Robbie are both completely brilliant. Smith, for the first time in years, has an excellent script that can keep up with him and compliment his charisma beautifully. The dialogue feels improvised and natural, which is perfect for Smith. As a criticism however, this is very much a Smith style film; no jumping out of comfort zones here, but a great return to form overall for the comedic, chilling, maxing, relaxing-all-cool superstar Fresh Prince. Robbie, much like in WoWS, has a great dialectal pallet with which to sink her teeth. She has very quickly found herself nearing A-list status and deservedly so. She’s beautiful, sexy, strong and intensely focused (pun not intended) in her performance; she brings charisma, realism and sincerity to her character which is ironic given the nature of her character and the film as a whole. Overall a fantastic duet to watch.

    The supporting cast are exceedingly entertaining too. BD Wong is enormously entertaining as a high stakes gambler in a beautifully intense betting scene set at the Superbowl. Rodrigo Santoro is hilarious as Spurgeon’s partner in crime. All the cast have moments to shine and it’s nice to see, though this is very obviously intended to be the Smith/Robbie show, and rightfully so. Overall a great cast of actors chosen to fill out this world of money, thievery, deceit and trust issues… A LOT of trust issues!

    Another thing that I wasn’t expecting is the excellent direction and cinematography of Ficarra/Requa. They have done a great job with the visual style of the film. With the story focusing (again, pun not intended) on misdirection and distraction, the camera shots do justice to that, providing some really clever/trippy shots. Some of the direction is super smooth, though they would have a very tough time competing with the exceptional direction of Selma’s Ava DuVernay or Birdman’s Alejandro González Iñárritu. Nothing is stand out in terms of originality or serious artistic experimentation, but the key ingredients are all there to give a visually thrilling movie.

    My primary criticism with this film is a small one, but one that is worth noting. As the film comes closer and closer to the finale, there are a lot and I mean A LOT of turns regarding who’s conning whom. While this works for the most part and is continuously done with flair and pace, it does lose steam quite a bit in the final moments and the ending, to me, loses any real sense of truth; while this is a clever move with regards to keeping us on our toes after the credits role, a film with so many turns and twists needs some solid closure. The story itself gives us that, but the feeling of uncertainty after so many turns and changes is a little souring in an otherwise very well executed story.

    Overall Focus is a very enjoyable film. The lead performances of Will Smith and Margot Robbie are worth the price of admission alone, alongside a great supporting cast. The direction is smooth and at times very clever, the script is outstanding, the story (minus a few bumps) is solid with a good build to a very convincing and enjoyable finale that would have benefited from slightly fewer twists and turns.

    No misdirection here, Focus definitely captured my direct attention.


  • Focus, follows a veteran con man, Nicky, played by Will Smith (After Earth), who takes Jess, played by Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street), under his wing, however things start to become complicated when they begin to fall for one another.

    Focus starts unlike many others, where it doesn’t waste any time and gets straight into the story. Within the first minute Nicky and Jess meet and get to know one another, then after around twenty minutes they are more than just partners. The pace is so fast (but enjoyable), that you’ll instantly realised once the first act ends and the second begins. The pace is slowed right down and allows the story to really develop, it almost feels like it’s the first film and it’s sequel all rolled into one.

    You could probably figure out everything that will happen and how it will all end, however to do that, you’ll have to do exactly what the title says, focus. For most of you (including me), Focus is quite unpredictable, but very easy enough to follow, the story is simple and straight forward, but it’s little moments within the film that…
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  • Quickie Review:

    Nicky (Will Smith), a professional con man comes across Jess (Margot Robbie) who he thinks has a lot of potential. After an abrupt end to their relationship, their paths cross again while Nicky plans his latest scheme. Only this time Nicky might just lose his focus on the job. With two charismatic actors taking the lead, Focus had the perfect casting for a potentially exciting con film. There are certainly things to like about this movie. However, apart from the acting talent and the initial intrigue behind the schemes, the movie as whole has trouble excelling beyond an acceptable level of mediocrity.

    Full Review:

    With Will Smith and Margot Robbie starring, Focus seemed like a promising con movie with some good amount of drama. You see that promise at the outset, but as the movie unfolded I started to lose sight of that potential.

    I have always liked Will Smith as an actor, not including the charisma vacuum that he was in After Earth of course (though that movie had multitude of other problems). As for Margot Robbie, this is her chance to move away from the great supporting role in The Wolf of Wall Street and take a leading role. They are definitely the best part about the movie with good chemistry together on screen. Since they are both talented con artists, it was interesting to see who was manipulating who (whom? Grammar Nazi away in the comments). The most exciting part of the movie was the first half when you are just starting to learn how Nicky leads his team of con men and women. I enjoyed seeing them pull off all the tricks and deceptions on the job. Then again you know the phrase “too much of a good thing,” well that’s exactly what Focus suffered from.

    The latter half of the movie starts to become a series mini reveals on who and how someone is being mislead. An example of a movie that handles a heist or a con better is Ocean’s Eleven. In this example the movie concentrates on the characters and the team dynamic. You are shown majority of the plan without ever suspecting there are alternative objectives being hidden from you. So when the big reveal happens it is immediately impactful because you weren’t even thinking about it. On the other hand, Focus is constantly barraging you with scenes that scream “look how manipulative we can be!” You can never trust the actions being taken by the characters causing you to regularly question everything. As a result the movie becomes extremely distracting because you start to break down every scene to see what was authentic.

    The tagline of Focus is “never lose focus” which ironically is what has happened here. Rather than utilising the talented cast to naturally develop their dynamic, we are given a collection of barely relevant twists. Even when something significant happens my reaction was that of little care and a thought of “hmm, seems about right.” Nevertheless, the first half and performances makes Focus a satisfactory experience, albeit not a memorable one.

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  • Will Smith has proven himself a master of many genres, powering the actioners and comedies that have served as his main bread and butter with a cocksure confidence. That particular brand of swagger does come with an expiration date, and it needs to be evolved before it smacks of desperation. The character of Nicky in his latest film Focus is a logical next step. For one thing, Smith has never truly established himself as a romantic leading man – look back on his filmography and Hitch comes off as a happy accident – and veteran con man Nicky mesmerises not through brash displays but via a supreme assurance that makes you work for his attention.

    This is immediately evident in the opening sequence when Margot Robbie’s Jess activates her con. She’s designated Nicky as her mark; they flirt and banter, swaddled in the cool and sexy vibe that eroticised Out of Sight and Charade (both of which are heavily cribbed here). She is the one doing all the work, though she – and perhaps the audience – doesn’t know it yet. He is content to sit back, relax, and watch what unfolds as a matter of professional curiosity. Jess is relatively new to the art of the con, but she’s savvy enough to know when she’s been made and even smarter to deduce that she stands to learn and earn a great deal by being part of Nicky’s crew.

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  • Will Smith’s character in this movie is constantly telling everyone to not lose focus when they are pulling a con, but he is constantly ignoring his own advice. When watching a movie about con artists, you don’t want to lose focus and keep up with what’s going on all the time, but even if you are a seasoned vet when it comes to watching these things and you think you know what’s going on, clever writing will always throw you for a loop.

    This movie begins with the longest prologue to a film I have ever seen (it goes for almost half the film), where veteran conman Nicky (Smith) comes across Jess (Margot Robbie), who, despite throwing the most obvious con that every sucker knows by know and fails miserably at it, impresses Nicky so much that he decides to bring her into his crew. After a series of small cons (and one big one), Nicky cuts Jess loose because it doesn’t help to get tied up in the game. Three years later, Nicky is working for Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro), a Formula 1 race car owner who wants him to misdirect his rival teams to get an advantage at the Buenos Aires Grand Prix. But when Jess turns up saying she is Garriga’s girlfriend, Nicky starts to lose focus.

    The script is the strongest and weakest part of this film. The cons are perfectly written and fun when they are pulled off (just as they are in any film of this nature). There is a certain satisfaction in being in on how misdirection is being used against other people, like if you were the only other person in the room who knew how a magician was about to pull off an illusion.

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  • Tony Barton

    Focus is a romantic action comedy, starring Will Smith as an experienced con man Nicky Spurgeon. and directed by Glenn Ficarra.

    Spurgeon finds himself the victim of an attempted con, when an inexperienced confidence trickster Jess Barrett (Margot Robbie) tries to seduce him, only later, she attempts to convince him that they’ve been caught by her angry, jealous husband. However, Spurgeon sees through the con and tells Jess to never lose her Focus in difficult situations. A few days pass and Jess and Nicky once again bump into each other in a night club, only this time she convinces Nicky to take her under his wing, by revealing all the information that she’s accumulated on him.

    Nicky takes Jess to New Orleans, and gets her to perform a series of small cons, in order to asses her suitability. After passing the tests, Nicky takes her to meet the rest of his gang and a romantic relationship develops. Nicky isn’t to pleased however, as he was always told by his father, who was also a con man, to never get involved with someone in the business. Nicky and Jess go to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and go to the private box of compulsive gambler, Liyuan Tse (BD Wong). Nicky and Jess, manage to use his compulsion against him and con him into loosing all his money. Afterwards however, Nicky gives Jess her share of the money and to her surprise, ends their relationship.

    Three years pass and finds Nicky in Argentina working for wealthy race team owner Rafeal Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro). Garrigo is desperate to win the championship, but in order to do this, needs to beat a team owned by rival, businessman McEwan (Robert Taylor). A cunning plan is put together, where Nicky will act as one of Garriga’s technicians who pretends to betray Garrigo and sell a part to McEwan, with the promise that it will improve the his cars performance. The opposite is true however, as the part as been rigged to slow the car down during the race.

    To Nicky’s surprise, Jess turns up at the pre-race party and announces that she and Garrigo are an item Nicky begins to pursue Jess and finally wins her back. The boss of Garrigo’s security, Owen’s (Gerald McRaney) doesn’t trust Nicky however and follows him and Trish. Nicky sells McEwan the part for three million euro’s, but also sells it to the other teams for similar amounts. Nicky is waiting for Jess in his hotel room, when he suddenly receives a text informing him that he has been found out and should leave at once. So things take a definite turn for the worse and Nicky and Jess suddenly find themselves in all manor of trouble.

  • Focus: Will Smith has always had a charisma about him, where no matter how many bad movies he does, people still want to see more of him(with the exception of After Earth). I, myself, still hope he does a decent movie so I have more of an enjoyable time at the movies and do not feel like I wasted my time. With a well-suited role for Will Smith, somewhat interesting plot and a likable concept to play off of, Focus turns into a half way decent film.

    A big flaw in this movie is the writers probably thought they were a little too smart when writing the screenplay and expected no one to see the twists and turns coming from around the corner. I did not hear from everyone, but a lot of people guessed the “OMG” moments of the movie. Most people probably can guess them because it does not take long to establish whether or not Will Smith is a reliable narrator. The only people who probably can’t guess those moments are the die hard Smith fans who cannot see past his face. The story also feels like it drags on a little at times and you do not feel like there is any real direction in the plot. Direction is not a big deal though since a con man’s life never has any linear storyline.

    The best part of the movie was definitely seeing an actual con man’s life plays out and what tricks they use to get what they want. It can be as little as snagging someone’s wallet in the street or as big as tricking someone to practically give you millions of dollars. A great quality they use is whenever they have an “Oh no!” moment in the script, it is almost always resolved with well thought out comedic humor. This is probably a good reason why the movie is just a good popcorn flick, it is interesting enough to where it will draw the audience in, but not so complicated that the audience members will be wondering what is going on.

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  • Margot Robbie is one of the co-stars of Focus (the film I’m about to review). I gotta admit, she’s gorgeous. I mean absolute perfection. So it was difficult for me to concentrate on the gist of everything when all I could do is uh, “focus” on her (ha ha). Will Smith is in Focus as well. In the last three years he’s appeared in the bomb After Earth and made a guest appearance in an even bigger bomb, Winter’s Tale. He hasn’t really been the blockbuster stud we’ve been used to seeing lately. Was this 2015 release the draw that gave him his mojo back? Hardly. Based on the last three weeks, its box office take has been dropping faster than the ball on New Year’s Eve. Together these two good looking people make their debut as a full fledged screen pair. Their characters (Nicky and Jess Barrett) are con artists. One is the teacher and the other is the student. They steal from denizens good and bad, they fall in love, and they contend to build a small fortune until one of their fumbled cons leaves them within an inch of their lives. The result is sadly a mixed review from me. And to borrow from the definition of the word focus, I’ll say this: what we have on screen is something that fails to be the center of interest or activity.

    Focus, in its hour and forty-five minute running time, is somehow split up into two halves. The first half involves theft of watches, pickpocketing, and an organization of pickpocketers. The second half (taking place three years later) chronicles a scam within the backdrop of motorsports (Indy car racing). There are cons, double cons, multiple double crosses, and revisited relationships. Yet nothing seems at stake and variable tension is at times, omitted. Granted, with all of this going on, it’s a Warner Bros. production that still feels unfinished. Basically, I just threw my hands up in the air and decided to call it a mundane love story between Smith and Robbie’s characters. However, the fact that Focus is slick, contains a few cool whip pans, is locale based (Buenos Aires and New Orleans to name two), and has a breezy tone, sometimes negates from its shortcomings.

    In terms of the acting, it’s substantial if not unchallenged. Smith as Nicky, reinvents the typical cool cat in sunglasses. Just think his Hitch character with the same confident strut but posing as a thief and a habitual liar. Then there’s Margot Robbie. She plays it dumb as Jess Barrett, the con world’s young Padawan in training. She’s not necessarily miscast and as mentioned earlier, incredibly easy on the eyes. It’s just that this is no where near as strong a turn as she posed in 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street. That leaves B.D. Wong giving the highest caliber performance in Focus. He does the whole scene-stealing, cameo thing. I’m a Law & Order junkie and he’s been on that show for a countless number of years. Here he goes unrecognizable playing Liyuan Tse, a compulsive gambler and obvious millionaire who hinges on taking Nicky for everything he’s worth (at an NFL game). I had to watch the closing credits to confirm that it was actually him.

    In the realm of directing, John Requa and Glenn Ficarra shoot the film at times, as a tribute to Martin Scorsese. They become cinematic masturbaters with some of their set ups (there’s a drawn out sequence having to do with betting at The Super Bowl). Also at the same time, they are clearly filming a variation of Ocean’s Eleven complete with a saucy 60’s/70’s throwback soundtrack. These guys keep Focus at a barely rated R punch. There is one violent confrontation and everything before it is suggestive innuendo/filtered-in f words.

    Anyway, I’m not recommending this flick but I will almost refrain: if you decide to take in a viewing, this exercise will make you think twice about standing near someone in a crowded area (who knows, you might get lifted). And as I left the theater, I stayed at least ten feet away from the nearest patron. Overall, it’s a sketchy affair, a slight disappointment. Here’s my sage advise to Will Smith: it’s not too late to sign on to do Independence Day 2. It hasn’t started filming yet and you could continue your life plan as a superior box office likeness.

    Of note: I love The Rolling Stones as much as anybody and I even dig the song, “Sympathy For The Devil”. But gee whiz does it have to appear in every darn movie these days (including this one). The novelty of this 1969 ditty is getting really tired. In the case of Focus, I don’t care if its lyrics have something to do with a major plot point. There are other songs out there that spout out “woo woo” you know.

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  • From the moment I saw Margot Robbie’s character sipping through a straw coyly across the table from Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, I knew that I wanted to see more of what this young actress had to offer. ‘Focus’ delivers entirely in showcasing the potential Robbie has as a great actress, so much so that she even manages to steal the show from Will Smith.

    ‘Focus’ features slick cinematography, particularly in the scenes that are shot in Argentina where the audiences are provided with a vibrant setting to watch the characters meddle within as the plot progresses. Moving at a consistent and smooth pace, I never found myself bored by what was happening on-screen and by the time that the film had finished, I was left feeling very satisfied.

    The chemistry shared between Smith and Robbie works and creates a movie romance that audiences are able to root for until the very end. After seeing the pair together, there’s no denying that Margot Robbie brings out the best in Will Smith and I look forward to seeing these two collaborate together, particularly in David Ayer’s upcoming film, ‘Suicide Squad’.

    Avoid the trailers for this film as they do not do it the justice that this fun flick deserves.

  • “When you have their attention, you can take whatever you want. You have to be safe.”

    “Focus” is a romantic crime movie in which the art of pickpocketing, manipulating and swindling is the point of focus (how appropriate). The end result isn’t memorable cinema, but a typical popcorn movie with a scam duo fluttering around each other as lovestruck butterflies, playing a masterful game of seduction. Or is it also a con game? The whole film is a succession of ingenious orchestrated scams and ruses. Unfortunately, the ultimate scam is explained in detail very early in the film, so you can predict which direction its heading. Although, it’s as entertaining as “Ocean’s Eleven”, filled with illusions as in “Now You See Me” and with a romantic storyline squirming itself through it.

    It all starts in a restaurant in New York where Jess (Margot Robbie) tries to get rid of an annoying date by using Nicky (Will Smith) as a way out. What she doesn’t realize is that Nicky is an experienced swindler who knows all the tricks of the trade and who recognized the subsequent attempt to defraud him immediately. Jess manages to become an apprentice of Nicky. Afterwards, they end up in New Orleans, the place to be at that time to steal as much generously stuffed wallets and other trinkets. Only Jess realizes too late that the personal world of Nicky is all about telling lies and cheating. And also that there’s no place for romance in this life full of trickery. And certainly not, as his father taught him, with someone from the same milieu.

    After the appalling movie “After Earth”, Will Smith is back to give shape to this crook (a kind of mature version of The Fresh Prince). Luckily he hasn’t invited one of his offspring to participate in this stylish film with enchanting interiors, glitzy hotels, luxury clothes and haute-cuisine scenes (before you know it Jaden could appear in it, while wearing a skirt). And he’s accompanied by the breathtaking and tantalizing Margot Robbie, who previously showed her sensuality in “The Wolf of Wall Street”. And this also happens to be a brilliant film with conning people as main topic. Besides being amazingly beautiful, this Australian actress can act too. Next to these two main actors, there were some who seemed familiar to me, but I couldn’t place them immediately. Except BD Wong, who recently played the chief geneticist Henry Wu in “Jurassic World”. He’s the eccentric Chinese gambler Liyuan.

    And Liyuan was also the key figure in the most (in my opinion) fascinating scene of this film. The Asian gambler who’ll bet on anything. The crazier, the better apparently. This crucial scene shows what Nicky is capable of. How he manipulates his victims and indoctrinates them in a psychological way. As he recites somewhere in the movie : “You have to get inside the head of your victim.”. But at the same time this also shows the weaker portion of the film. At a certain moment this film becomes highly confusing and it’s getting more difficult to discern the difference between truth and deception. The first part is better than expected and sometimes brilliantly portrayed. For example the part where Nicky and his gang hit the streets of New Orleans and demonstrate their palette of pickpockets techniques. The second part looks nice when it’s about scenery (which is really beautiful) but lacks passion. Hopefully there aren’t any individuals who are going to bring, what is shown here, into practice on a large scale !

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